He taught the people how to live

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Dr. Keshava Baliram Hedgewar was a born patriot in the real sense of the term. It was neither reaction nor frustration that drove him to national work. No doubt he was against the British rule and wanted to end it by whatever means possible.

Once he is reported to have said that for the independence of the motherland he was prepared to work even as a shoeblack of the Briton and if necessary also to use that very shoe to drive him out.

He did not make a ‘fetish’ of the means to attain freedom which in the words of Lokmanya Tilak he considered ‘our birthright’. He, therefore, not only participated in all freedom movements of his time but encouraged and helped everybody who worked for the realisation of that end. But his love for the country was not because it was in chains. Love of the motherland according to him is a natural state of the human mind, Nationalism of patriotism is not an extraordinary attribute of an individual but a normal quality in a social and cultured man. In fact man who has been defined as a gregarious unreal ceases to be human if he loses social sense and becomes self-centred. Dr. Hedgewar, therefore, never liked the use of the word ‘Deshbhakta’ with the names of individuals to laud them. The use of this appellative with particular persons only denoted a lack of this common quality among the people, and if people in general were patriotic they were a people no more. He also felt that aggressive designs by others or existence of a foreign rule was not necessary for the manifestation of this basic virtue of the individual. Patriotism is a positive virtue and not a Negative Reaction to the Misdeeds of an Alien Society.

‘Would there have been a Shiva if there was no Aurangzeb?’ Was one of the questions being once put to swayamsevaks who had gathered round him for a chat?

‘No’ some of us opined. It was the tyrannical rule and religious bigotry of Aurangzeb that Chhatrapati Shivaji fought. Why should he have taken all the trouble he did if there was a benign sovereign at Delhi?

But Doctorji’s answer was in the affirmative. It is only a historical coincidence that Shivaji had to wage a war against Aurangzeb, and Maharana Pratap against Akbar. Even if there was no Mughal power at Delhi these worthy sons of Bharat would have served the people and enhanced the glory of the motherland. Of course, the channels through which their services would have found expression might have been different. It is not only the soldier and the statesman but also the scavenger and the saint who serve the nation.

It was in keeping with this view that he once changed the caption under a photograph, from ‘Teach me how to die’ to ‘teach me how to live’. And truly he taught the people how to live.

Fruits of Negative Nationalism

It was this positive concept of nationalism that made him stress on Hinduism. Noncooperation and Khilafat, expedient measures adopted as a basis of agitation against the Britishers, had given a slant to the whole national movement and distorted our vision of the nation.

No cooperation was obviously negative. It advocated boycott of all that was British but did not lay down any positive norms of our national behaviour. Khilafat was out and out a sectarian movement fostering extraterritorial loyalties. It did not bind the Muslims of India to this land but to some extent tended to sap the loyalties that they had developed by tradition and habitat. So much so that in the course of the movement some prominent Muslims even though of leaving India to reside in Afghanistan, which according to them was an Islamic country. If there was any understanding between him Khilafat and the Congress leaders it was only temporary and expedient. Each one perhaps, wanted to exploit the other for their own ends. The Congress leaders wanted to oust the Britishers and for that purpose they found it useful to align with the Muslims who for the first time after 1857 were angry with the Britishers for their breach of faith on the issue of Khilafat. But when Kamal Ataturk himself put an end to Khilafat the Muslims had no cause to be against the Britishers. The Congress leaders, however, did not realise the changed situation and instead of regenerating and consolidating the normal national tradition, tried to perpetuate the expedient unity and give it some content. It resulted in giving up everything that had been the basis of our nationalism throughout the ages and in its place inventing newer forms that inspired none. It was in these circumstances that Dr. Hedgewar put forward in clear and unambiguous terms the idea of Hindu Rashtra.

The Barrenness of the ‘Composite-nationalism’ Concept

It can be said that for the last forty years this struggle between real nationalism and pseudo nationalism had been going on. The protagonists of composite nationalism have not been able to create anything that can sustain and inspire the people. But definitely they have succeeded in confusing and confounding them. They have defiled and destroyed the image of the Mother in all its salient features. They have also succeeded in denouncing and denigrating the true picture of our nationhood. The result is the present state of affairs threatening complete disintegration of the country and total annihilation of its national couture and civilisation. However, the RSS is still the only ray of hope, one shoulder to think what would have been our fate, had not Dr. Hedgewar with his prescience, taken steps to preserve and promote the real nature of our nationhood.

Dr. Hedgewar was not only an idealist but a realist. He was a dreamer but lived to translate his dreams into reality. And in this attempt he has bequeathed to us the great organisation Rashtriya Swaymesewak Sangh. It was through the instrumentality of the RSS that he wanted to see the picture of an organised society capable of leading a meaningful life.

People with sectarian and narrow outlook consider the RSS as a rival organisation threatening to oust them. But they are mistaken. The RSS is not exclusive. It is pervasive and wants to embrace and enthuse the whole society. Some sympathisers of the RSS have also some misunderstanding about the organisation. They want to serve some one or the other purpose. They commit the fallacy of confusing the part with whole.

No Reform Movement, this

It must be understood that Dr. Hedgewar’s was not a reform movement. The reformer lays emphasis on institutional changes and feels that by such changes he will change the man and the society. In certain circumstances he may be justified and might succeed also. But Dr. Hedgewar felt that what we needed was not reforms but organisation. Unless we can re-establish the basic relationship between individual and the society no amount of reformist zeal or institutional arrangements would serve our purpose. It is like ‘Dharma’ which sustains all smrities and shastras and through them the society.

Today when we see in retrospect we are amazed at the greatness of his personality, the height of his stature and the depth of his thinking. But those who had lived with him could never feel that they were in the company of one who was so much superior to them. ‘He seemed only a step forward, recounted Sri Bala Saheb Deoras who had worked under him since his student days. A step more and you would be with him was the feeling and aspiration of every Swayamsevak. But as you stepped up, like your shadow you would find him still ahead but then only a step further. It was thus that he led the people on and on, and out of ordinary men fashioned the great organisers who have taken his message to the nook and corner of the country. And even today let us not idolize him and worship him for that will not please him but let us live up to his ideals; which only requires a step forward and no more.’
[Organiser, 2 April, 1962]